In the mid 1970s, a young man named Sylvester had a dream of one day becoming a movie actor but couldn’t find a talent agency in New York City willing to take a chance on him. After being turned down by hundreds of agencies, he was so broke he couldn’t afford to pay the heating bill in his apartment. It got to the point where he couldn’t even buy food for his dog and was forced to sell him to a stranger for $25. Sylvester and his wife argued constantly about their lack of money, and she wanted him to give up his dream and get a job to pay the bills.
Two weeks after he sold his dog, Sylvester watched a boxing match between Muhammad Ali and “The White Hope” Chuck Wepner. For 15 rounds, Wepner battled the champ and took the best Ali could dish out but would not give up. Sylvester was so moved by Wepner’s display of passion to keep fighting that he began writing a movie script immediately after the fight.
He wrote continuously for 20 straight hours and finished the script in one sitting, or so the story goes. Over the next several weeks, he showed his boxing script to a number of movie producers but was rejected each time and told his script was sappy and too predictable.
Turning down the offer, walking away
Finally, Sylvester found a producer who liked what he had written and offered to buy the script for $125,000. He agreed to sell the script but only if he was allowed to play the starring role in the movie. The producer told him there was no way on earth he would let an unknown actor star in the movie, so Sylvester turned down the offer and walked away.
The producer really liked the script and called him back a couple of weeks later with an offer of $250,000, but as before, refused to let him have the starring role in the movie. Once again, Sylvester turned him down. The producer then offered a staggering sum of $325,000 for the script without him in the movie, and, again, Sylvester refused to sell the script. Eventually, the producer agreed to take a chance and let Sylvester play the starring role in the movie but would pay him only $35,000.
Once Sylvester was paid the $35,000, he went back to the liquor store, where he had sold his dog weeks earlier with the hope of finding the man and buying back his best friend. After waiting outside the store for three days, he found the man and offered him $500 to buy his dog back. The man rejected that offer but eventually sold the dog back to Sylvester for $15,000 and a part in the movie. The name of the movie was “Rocky,” and it won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1976 and turned Sylvester Stallone into one of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars.